Through the recent traumatic years on Tyneside, many Newcastle United fans have found themselves pining for the Kevin Keegan days where the money flowed, and so did the football.
It’s nothing unusual for a fan to suffer from a bout of nostalgia when times get tough, and this time in history wasn’t so long ago. Newcastle managed back-to-back second-placed finishes in the 1995/96 and 1996/97 seasons, when four years earlier when Keegan had arrived the storied club had been on the verge of third tier football.
Players like David Ginola, Faustino Asprilla, Les Ferdinand and, of course, Alan Shearer are the top names associated with such a glorious period. Perhaps that indicate just how starved the Geordie faithful have been of success that the period is so often celebrated yet yielded zero trophies.
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But, the nearly men were exciting to watch and, to the conventional neutral, Newcastle were a favourite team to catch on TV. The gung-ho attacking style that Keegan represented made for some outrageous contests, none more so typified Newcastle’s entire era than the famous 4-3 loss to Liverpool.
Very entertaining, but they just came up short.
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One man often lost in the shuffle when talking about Newcastle’s greatest side is Peter Beardsley.
Hexham-born, Beardsley isn’t celebrated in quite the same home-grown light as Shearer, but his contributions to the club shouldn’t be so readily overlooked.
In his early career, Beardsley was considered a nippy inside forward with a good eye for goal. By the time he returned to St James’ under Keegan in the summer of ’93, Beardsley was a twinkle-toed, 32-year-old playmaker.
The lineage of the majestic number eight has suffered a steady decline from the great heights Paul Gascoigne and then Beardsley represented it with. Kieron Dyer, Danny Guthrie and now Vurnon Anita have followed. That’s not even remotely in the same ball park calibre wise - at all.
Gazza and Beardsley embodied the local flair that Wallsend Boys Club had a flair for producing. It’s testament to how the game is seen in the north east and the ethos the fans strive to keep alive. It’s why players like Hatem Ben Arfa, whose work rate is perennially non-existent, was still lauded and adored by the Toon.
Majestic until the very end
Beardsley was majestic right up until his final minutes in a Newcastle shirt. He scored 117 goals in 321 appearances for the club over the course of his two stints, which is a phenomenal return for a player widely considered a premier provider.
Now 54-years-old, Beardsley is the head coach of the Under-21 side that has seen Adam Armstrong and Rolando Aarons on the cusp of first team spots. His heart always has and probably always shall remain in Newcastle, whether ‘Greatest all time XI’s’ acknowledge him or not.
A 59-time England international, where he was an integral part of the Three Lions who got to the semi-finals of Italia 90, Beardsley also enjoyed domestic success with Liverpool where he was a two-time top-flight champion and FA Cup winner.
Was he ever the absolute main man? Probably not. John Barnes, Ian Rush, Gazza, Shearer and many others could justly lay claim to that distinction during his tenures alongside them - but they certainly wouldn’t have been as great without him.
No shadow is big enough to cast over Beardsley’s career stats, though, and he should be certainly regarded as one of Newcastle’s all-time great attacking lights.